Addressing the homeless youth crisis in our region, which has a disproportionate impact on the LGBT community, has long been a stated priority of GSBA. As our community’s business organization, we have focused our efforts on economic approaches such as last year’s Youth Equality and Reinvestment (YEAR) Act. There are several bills in Olympia that seek to make it easier for homeless youth to receive critical services and for those exiting the criminal justice system to successfully reintegrate into society.
For the third year running, GSBA reiterates its support for the Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP) bill, which could allow persons who have committed certain non-violence offenses to appeal to a judge for a certificate stating that they have paid all their debts to society. This lowers the barriers for employment for people with criminal records, giving them a greater chance of successfully reentering society. GSBA joined with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to encourage state senators to support the CROP bill.
New in 2016, the GSBA Board of Directors has unanimously endorsed the Supporting Opportunities & Rehabilitation (SOAR) act, which seeks to provided increased rehabilitation measures for juvenile offenders. Proposed items include: adding rehabilitation as an express intent of Juvenile Justice, mandating deferred disposition for qualifying juveniles, eliminating mandatory minimums for juvenile automobile crimes, providing more discretion around specific kinds of domestic violence cases and eliminating mandatory arrest for offenses between minor child and parent/step/grandparent, and removing license revocation for non-driving drug/alcohol/firearm offenses. Additionally, our friend and partner Rep. Joan McBride has proposed HB 2396, a bill that would allow a school nurse or guidance counselor to provide informed consent for health care decisions for a minor in the case that a student is homeless and without a legal parent or guardian.
Finally, with our Travel Gay Seattle initiative, GSBA is also committed to building Washington State’s tourism industry. As the only state without a dedicated tourism bureau, Washington is missing out on an obvious engine of economic vitality and revenue growth. Fully supportive of the Washington Tourism Alliance’s goals of a self-assessed state tourism fund, GSBA advocates in the meantime for bridge funding of the group as it continues to bring inbound tourism dollars into our state.